From great individual efforts — including record-setting performances — to thrilling team achievements — such as championship triumphs — 2013 had it all in the Newtown sports world. As we bid farewell to ’13 and turn the calendars — and our attention to the games ahead — to 2014, here’s a sampling of some of the many great accomplishments that took place on the Newtown playing surfaces during the past 12 months:
From Mike Daubert’s early-January buzzer-beating 3-pointer to propel the Newtown High School boys’ basketball team to a remarkable victory to the Newtown High football team’s second consecutive South-West Conference championship, and everything in between, there were numerous exciting moments that will be remembered for years to come.
Youth success: The youngest athletes continue to show that there is good reason to believe these reviews will continue to be chockfull of success stories for years to come. Among the highlights was the Newtown Youth Wrestling Association’s (NYWA) championship in the Western Connecticut League Championships. The NYWA’s elementary school squad earned a first-place tie with rival New Milford, and the middle school group had a great showing of its own with a second-place finish to New Milford. … The Western Connecticut Junior Colonials Pee Wee A hockey team, which includes several Newtown skaters, claimed a state championship. … The Newtown Renegades Cal Ripken Baseball team wins state and regional titles, and gets all the way to the U10 World Series. … The U14 Newtown Hawks Green softball team captures a state title. … The fourth grade football team from town claimed the Colonial League Orange Bowl title.
Individual accolades: Newtown High School’s cross country and track standout Jake Feinstein graduated but not before leaving his mark. Feinstein holds NHS records in three distance running events on the track. Jenna Calandro, now a senior, set the school mark in the pole vault event last spring. … This fall was highlighted by Newtown High quarterback Drew Tarantino breaking the all-time single-season passing record, all-time touchdown passing record, and the mark for TD passes in a season. Teammates Julian Dunn (single-season receiving record) and Cooper Gold (career rushing record) also highlighted a great campaign for the gridders. Dunn was also named to the 2013 Walter Camp All-Connecticut High School Football Team. ... NHS softball player Jess Gibbons sets the school record for career hits and the one that broke the mark — number 112 — was a homerun. … Former Newtown Youth Lacrosse player Joe Banno makes his Major League Lacrosse debut with the Rochester Rattlers.
That’s why they play the games: Upsets are a part of sports, and who doesn’t like an underdog? Especially when it’s a Nighthawk. Last winter’s state tournament featured the No. 29 seed Newtown High boys’ basketball team going to No. 4 Crosby of Waterbury and leaving the gymnasium with a wild upset victory in the first round of play. Then there was the No. 17 hockey team’s shocking win over No. 1 Amity of Woodbridge in their tourney opener.
Not too bigtime: Major League Soccer stars, area collegiate standouts, and professional athletes from the New York Knicks, Boston Bruins, and New York Giants, all visited community members at NYA Sports & Fitness Center during a variety of events and autograph sessions this past year. The Stanley Cup also made its way to town, as did members of the New England Patriots.
The thrill of victory: In addition to the high school football team capturing its second straight SWC title, the grid iron warriors also showed their strength with a first-place finish in the SWC Weight Lifting Competition, which the Hawks hosted in the spring. … The NHS gymnastics team also took home first-place conference hardware, vaulting to the top among the SWC squads. … Newtown’s girls’ lacrosse team kept its run alive and won its ninth straight SWC crown. … The NHS girls’ tennis team wins its second consecutive SWC title. … Former Newtown High softball standout Kate Bowen leads the Stratford Brakettes to their fourth straight Women’s Major Softball Championship.
Adults shine: Jan Brown, at the age of 63 this past spring, was honored as the Connecticut Masters’ Games Athlete of the Year for 2012. … At age 82, Irene McCarthy runs her first 5K, completing the Rocking Rooster Run in a time of 38:52.
End of a run: The NHS girls’ lacrosse team, before going on to win when it mattered most — in the playoffs — dropped its first game to a conference opponent since 2006, falling 17-16 to New Fairfield in an April contest. … Marty Margulies, longtime NHS boys’ tennis coach, stepped down after more than a decade of leading the team.
Go teams: The NHS cheerleaders were second in the state. … Among the toughest title-game finishes for a Newtown High team in awhile was the boys’ soccer squad’s overtime/penalty kicks defeat to Brookfield in the conference finale. … Newtown’s D12 and D15 cheer squads both won regional championships and went on to compete in the national championships.
Behind the scenes: Longtime baseball fixture Frank Rocca was named the Babe Ruth Baseball State Commissioner.
There are sure to be plenty more outstanding performances, great plays, and winning ways in 2014. Grab a seat at some of the local contests and enjoy watching some of our local athletes in action throughout the coming months. See you at the games.